Great talk by Mandy Barker at Redeye this week. She is now well known for her photographic work documenting the extent of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. The resulting images achieve that elusive photographic goal of taking a large real-world issue and condensing it – without diminishing it – into a single photograph.
The talk was a bit of a master class in process: in how to take an idea and turn it into a photographic project. She explained how she took the initial concern and started to work on it several years ago with a series called Indefinite. This developed as it went along. Several series, more ambitious and wider in scope both photographically and logistically, followed: Soup; Shoal; and Penalty (see image right). The most recent is Beyond Drifting which uses a 19th century botany manual as a model for images of plastic detritus shot to look like plankton. In all of this work the ugliness of decaying plastic is transformed into graphic images that draw the eye and intrigue the mind without ever minimising that ugliness. Its construction of shape from detail is almost pointilliste.
Mandy shared research methods, photographic techniques, workbooks and happy accidents in what I felt was an act of great generosity. I couldn’t make my mind up whether she is an environmentalist with a camera or a photographer with environmental concerns but either way you couldn’t help but be inspired.